Running is arguably the best way to develop cardiovascular fitness for military operations. It’s functional, scalable, accessible, and requires no specialist equipment or skill. It’s no wonder that virtually every branch of the armed services places such an emphasis on running. However, running can also be hard on your joints and is a leading cause of acute and chronic injury.
Here are four simple ways to prevent running injuries, leaving you free to enjoy all the benefits of this beneficial workout.
#1. ADHERE TO THE 10% RULE
They say that rules are meant to be broken but break this rule at your peril! Doing too much running too soon is a great way to get injured. It takes time to become accustomed to the stresses of running, and it pays to make haste slowly. Use the 10% rule to make sure you never expose your body to more work than it can handle.
With the 10% rule, you never increase the length of your longest run by more than 10% per week, and you never increase your total weekly running mileage by more than 10% either.
For example, if your current longest run is five miles, next week, your longest run should be no more than 5.5 miles. Similarly, if you currently run 15 miles per week, next week you should run no further than 16.5 miles.
Don’t worry – these small increments will add up over time, so you soon start to get fitter but with a much lower risk of injury.
#2. TAKE CARE WHEN RUNNING IN BOOTS OR WITH EQUIPMENT
Running is a high-impact activity. Each time your feet hit the deck, they do so with about 6-8 times your bodyweight. That's a lot of tonnage if you weigh 140 pounds, and a whole lot more if you weigh 200. Add kit, and you significantly increase the stress on your joints. It's no wonder that stress fractures are such a common problem in the armed services.
Running in boots doesn’t help the problem. Running shoes are engineered to absorb shock whereas boots are not. This means even more of those impact forces are directed into your feet, shins, knees, hips, and back.
If you must run in boots or while carrying kit, introduce it gradually, adhere to the 10% rule, and make sure you alternate weighted or boot runs with training in running shoes.
#3. CONSIDER YOUR RUNNING TECHNIQUE
Running is a natural, simple activity and yet a lot of people still manage to make a mess of it. Proper running technique will significantly lower your risk of injury. Consider these points the next time you head out for a run:
- Run tall – imagine your head is a helium-filled balloon floating at the end of your neck
- Keep your shoulders down, back, and relaxed. Relax your neck and face too
- Relax your arms and allow them to swing naturally
- Imagine you are running with eggs in your hands; don’t clench your fists
- Lightly brace your core to support your spine
- Keep your footfalls light and all-but silent. Heavy footfalls are a waste of energy and a sign of unnecessary impact
- Short, fast strides are more efficient and easier on your joints then long strides
- Use a heel/toe action
#4. DON'T NEGLECT STRETCHING AND STRENGTHENING WORK
Running is a very repetitive movement that keeps your muscles locked into a relatively short range of motion. This can cause all sorts of tight muscles to develop. Tight muscles can affect stride length and running mechanics, leading to injury. Make sure you maintain or improve your flexibility with regular stretching, paying particular attention to your legs and hips.
Strength is also crucial for injury-free running. Left-to-right strength imbalances and weakness, in general, will increase your risk of injury. Good running specific strength training exercises include step-ups, Bulgarian split squats, stationary, alternating, and walking lunges, Romanian deadlifts, and squats.
Stick to these 4 rules and you can be sure that you are safeguarding yourself against the dangers of injury.
Want more help with your running? We've all been there it's never easy breaking through those plateaus. So if you are serious about it, try adding in our Free Running Guide to your training schedule. Designed to help you knock 30-60+ seconds off your mile run time.